Keeping chickens is very rewarding and generally, a lot of fun. At least for us keepers. But what about our birds? How do we keep life interesting for them and is there anything, in particular, we can provide to support their wellbeing? Here is what you need to know.
So, what do chickens like to play with? Chickens like to play with intriguing, exciting, and varied items. Food and shiny things are particularly entertaining to these birds. The best and safest toys are those that provide a reward, are durable and safe to peck at, and force chickens to engage their minds.
Food can be used for so much more than simply consumption.
In fact, the more you can do with food to keep your flock occupied and busy, the better!
Assuming the food is healthy, that is.
Just like so many animals, chickens are playful.
Playtime is great for their physical and mental well-being and should be actively encouraged.
And the truth is, all chickens, whether they are free-range or not, will require fun activities to keep boredom, and consequently bad behavior, at bay.
People are often surprised by how intelligent and engaged chickens are – they are curious about the world around them. And they should be allowed to express themselves accordingly.
Hiding or hanging food (such as a cabbage from a rope) is commonly enjoyed. But it does not have to stop there.
Keep reading to find out all the different ways you can entertain these wonderful birds.
Do Chickens Need Entertainment?
Professionals will concur that chickens need entertainment for optimal health. Entertainment provides enrichment, which is essential on both a physical and social level.
And this is true regardless of why you are keeping chickens; whether this is for their eggs or for companionship.
Of course, the first steps in ensuring good health for your flock are to keep their coop clean, providing a high-quality feed, and allowing them sufficient space.
These are all their basic needs.
However, we can take it much further that this.
Besides, chickens have feelings, and it is therefore essential to ensure your birds are taken care of emotionally, as well as physically.
Suppose you were to confine your flock to a cramp coop and do not provide them with any mental or physical stimulation.
In that case, your flock will likely display behavioral problems which will most likely include bullying their coop mates and feather picking.
This is a clear sign that conditions are not optimal, and needs are not being met.
Free-range hens get most of their enrichment from foraging and roaming; so if you do keep chickens more confined, then you will need to compensate for the lack of stimulation here.
Entertainment in the form of learning is one of the best ways to provide enrichment.
You don’t need to spend much money on enrichment, and their toys don’t need to be aesthetically pleasing.
All you require is your imagination and to encourage natural behaviors.
What Kind Of Toys Do Chickens Like To Play With?
Chickens like to play with toys that keep them occupied and engaged. Toys that require a little bit of thought, or mystery, and that they cannot work out. Besides this, chickens like to play with any toys that provide them with a treat – usually, in the form of food!
Chickens appear to love reflective surfaces, so they will have lots of fun with mirrors and toys of a similar nature.
And they are very easy to acquire too.
Many baby and toddler toys can be re-purposed for your chickens; if they are safe for children, they are likely to be safe for your chickens!
Always look for toys with bright colors, curious textures, and sounds designed to attract attention.
This are most commonly enjoyed.
You can coat plastic kiddie rings (like these from Amazon) with crunchy peanut butter and hang them from a low spot, or you can just throw these around for your flock.
At the same time, a simple ball can be enough to keep these birds occupied for a while.
Just make sure that the ball is lightweight – you do not want to have any injuries!
You can really challenge your birds by stacking colored donut rings and hiding food items in the middle for them to find.
Wind up, and walking toys are always a favorite with chickens too, especially if they are noisy.
Let us now explore some other options.
Plastic kiddie gyms are great for your chickens, and you can always wrap food items around for entertainment.
Some chicken keepers go to great lengths to provide a highly entertaining playground for their flock.
You will find many exciting poultry playscape ideas online. Pinterest for instance, is a great place to look.
Remember that chickens aren’t big fans of change, so don’t make any extravagant or quick changes to their usual scheme.
Always be sure to introduce new items gradually.
When it comes to keeping your flock entertained, try to think outside of the box.
Consider what makes them happy and what they like to do.
Besides this, consider features offering different vertical heights like roosts, ladders, and steps to encourage your flock to jump or fly.
Introduce variety with varying colors, textures, and hiding places – poultry birds like natural features like shrubs, stumps, trees, leaves, and fallen branches.
Variety is sure to stimulate their little minds and keep them out of trouble.
It would help if considered safety for your poultry gym, it should offer protection from the sun in warm weather.
Try locating the play area near a naturally shady area beneath trees, grasses, and bushes.
Beach umbrellas, tarps, and shade cloth also provide welcome relief from the sun’s powerful rays.
Winter can bring about a period of inactivity for your birds, but they still require some activity to prevent boredom and unwanted behavior.
Keep your chickens busy and entertained by providing novel items to explore and climb, like a Christmas tree on its side, a wooden sled, and stacked logs.
Chickens like to be up high off the ground, so encouraging flying and jumping by installing roosts of varying heights in the coop.
Popular roosting materials include:
- Wide tree branches
- Milk crates
You can introduce numerous items to your gym, like a plastic bottle filled with poultry feed with holes poked to encourage them to scratch and peck to get the food out.
You can fill boxes with shredded paper, leaves, and poultry food to encourage your birds to forage.
Old CDs can captivate your flock as they cast exciting patterns on the ground when the sun reflects off them, and they move in the wind.
You can hang a sunflower or a few of them around the play area to provide brightness into their gym. They will also enjoy trying to get at the sunflower seeds.
Chickens enjoy a good dust bath; you may want to provide a sandbox for them to use as a dust bath.
Dust bathing is excellent for your chickens as it maintains healthy skin conditions and helps them to stay cool in hot weather.
Dust bathing is also a perfect way for your chickens to socialize, as they enjoy the company of other chickens.
Now that you know what kind of toys chicken enjoy, head over to Amazon and have a look at some of the bestsellers.
Other Ways To Keep Your Chickens Entertained
The other standout way to keep your chickens entertained, is with food.
Just consider that in regards to food, it’s only enjoyable for your birds if they get to eat it afterward!
The idea is to keep them entertained and engaged. So, it should not be too easily consumed..
One of the most popular “toys” is a head of lettuce or cabbage, and to suspend it from their coop roof to peck at.
You can also hang it from a clothesline.
Chickens enjoy eating whole foods like squash or melons, as they have to use natural behaviors to get their treat.
If you want to get your flock’s attention, you can throw a piece of fruit that they like across the yard; this encourages them to run and eat.
- Toss small fruits like berries into their bedding – this encourages them to dig to find their treat.
- Toss small items like fruit and veg into the air so that your birds can jump and grab them.
Chickens also love to race each other, so you can even try rolling peas across a flat surface to allow the chickens to race to get them.
Another popular option to create a chicken-friendly shish kebab by stringing harder fruits and veggies onto a rope and tying both ends.
Day-old baked goods can be highly entertaining for your flock too.
Make sure that the bread isn’t too soft, as it can be a choking hazard.
Throw hard rolls around your yard and watch your chickens run after them with great delight.
You can stud your fence with rolls for your birds to peck.
Bagels are ideal for hanging around the coop, yard, and ceiling.
Aside from fruit, veg, and certain baked goods, other food items work well as toys for your chickens.
Pasta and rice are a staple in many homes, and they make good treats for your flock.
Specific pasta shapes can be suspended in low bushes for your birds to jump and peck.
Spread cooked rice on rotting logs. You can spread peanut butter on objects around your yard to give your birds something to peck at.
Roll hard-boiled eggs across your yard to allow them to chase and tear.
Throw meaty bones to your chickens and watch them clean it up.
As you can see, there are almost limitless possibilities to provide entertainment.
And food, so long as it is healthy and appropriate, and does not displace their main poultry feed, can be used in very creative ways!
As you can see, chickens like to play with various objects – and the more curious the object is, the better.
It would help if you tried to use your imagination as much as possible, considering varying heights, textures, sounds, sights, etc.
In reality, the list of things you can provide for enrichment and entertainment is endless.
If you can think creatively.
As long as it keeps your flock occupied and present, that’s what counts.
You can even include yourself in playtime with your chickens, and it can be great fun.
And better still, when your birds are happy and entertained, you will notice less stress more productive egg-laying.
As previously stated, enrichment needn’t be costly or pretty.
You can use any safe materials as playthings – their role is to encourage natural behaviors.
Just make sure that there are treats for your birds after all their hard work playing and foraging.
Not all chickens like swings, but some are known to love the movement that they can provide. It ultimately depends on the bird and its preferences. Letting your chickens use a swing from a young age should increase the likelihood of usage and enjoyment.
Are you wondering what else chickens may or may not like? Then my following guides may be of interest:
- Do Chickens Like Rain? [Is It Safe For Them To Be Out In It?]
- Do Chickens Like Water? [To Drink, To Play In, Or To Swim?]
- Do Chickens Like To Be Petted? [What About Being Held?]
- Do Chickens Like Music? [Do They React Or Lay More Eggs?]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.